Asian Kitchen + Sushi
by: Dave Nevill Jr. of OrlandoFoodScene.com
Located just across from the UCF campus is Bento Café, a local chain specializing in Pan-Asian dishes served fast and fresh. Started in Gainesville, it offers a great concept for the bustling Central Florida area, and spans locations in downtown Orlando as well as Jacksonville. Founded by a trio of UF graduates 14 years ago, Bento Café has prided itself on being the go-to lunch spot for the busy student or office-pro who craves Asian cuisine but doesn’t have the time for a traditional sit-down restaurant.
The interior of the restaurant is a mixture of open and booth seating, with a modern design aesthetic that lends itself well to the guest on-the-go. After placing our order at the counter, we found a seat near the middle of the restaurant at the start of a busy lunch rush. The restaurant was buzzing with activity, but we never felt crowded or hurried as we enjoyed our meal. Our dishes were delivered fast as they were prepared by the kitchen and sent via food runners. This approach is the key to making sure that busy guests get their dishes quickly and have time to savor them.
We started with the General Tso Bento Box, the Szechuan Noodle Bowl, and Spicy Miso Soup. The Bento Box is probably the best way to go if you’re looking for a well-rounded meal in a hurry. Each box includes your choice of meat, cooked to order, and is accompanied by white rice, a ginger salad, lo mein noodles, and string beans. The variety of these dishes is nearly endless, with a mixture of proteins including tofu being prepared either grilled, fried, or stir- fried. This also applies to the Noodle Bowls and Rice Bowls.
With the gang still hungry for more, we decided on a trio of the Kawaii, Candy, and Dragon Sushi Rolls. The presentation was both artistic and appetizing, with the vivid colors of the fresh fish and ingredients popping like a rainbow on the plate. All the more commendable considering the speed at which the dish arrived.
Everything about our visit to Bento Café was overwhelmingly positive. Its ability to produce dishes this good at reasonable prices with speed to boot is impressive, to say the least. Beyond that, it would take a math professor to calculate how many visits you would have to make before you tried the same dish twice. When you’re ready to break out of the monotonous lunch rut, look no further than Bento Café.♦